As we head into the winter months and spend more time indoors, it’s vital to get up to date on the seasonal flu vaccine, as well as COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. We’ve pulled together the latest information from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), so you know where, when, and how to get the protection you need to stay healthy.
Before COVID-19, seasonal flu vaccination was the most important annual vaccination for most of us to get. According to the U.S. CDC, flu vaccination prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related provider visits each year. The CDC estimates that from 2019-2020, the flu vaccination prevented 7.5 million influenza illnesses, 3.7 million influenza-associated medical visits, 105,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 6,300 influenza-associated deaths.
The U.S. and Maine CDCs recommend that people six months and older get an annual flu vaccine as early in the fall as possible. If you haven’t already done so, call your primary care provider (PCP) or your local pharmacy to schedule your flu vaccination today. The good news is that Health Options makes the flu vaccine available at $0 cost-share to Members, and you can receive a flu shot at the same time as a COVID-19 shot if you still need one.
Also, COVID-19 boosters are available to everyone aged 18 and older – just in time for holiday gatherings. The latest (CDC) booster recommendations are:
You can get your booster shot anywhere that provides the COVID-19 vaccine. You may hear directly from your healthcare provider about getting a booster, or you may contact the locations linked below for an appointment. Many locations also offer drop-in vaccinations with no appointment necessary.
For a final piece of vaccination news, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is now widely available for individuals aged 5 and older throughout Maine. As the Delta variant continues to be a prominent strain, vaccination is the safest way to protect against severe illness in children and adults.
It’s also important to continue protecting unvaccinated children ages two and older, who should wear a mask in public spaces and around people with whom they do not live.
If you need help scheduling an appointment, or want to know if a site near you offers vaccinations without an appointment, call the Maine COVID-19 Community Vaccination Line at (888) 445-4111. You may also search for COVID-19 vaccine availability here: Maine vaccination sites.
Your health, well-being, and safety are our priorities. Please call our Member Services at (855) 624-6463 for more information about vaccines and other preventive care benefits.
There is never a bad time to start a good new habit. And as we enter another year with the pandemic continuing to cause disruptions and uncertainty in our lives, this is an excellent time to use Healthwise resources to learn about some easy and useful self-care habits.
Whether you unwind at the spa or on the golf course, self-care can mean many things to many people (that’s pretty much where the term comes from). We want to discuss and link to three easy, free care practices you can apply to your daily life to reduce stress and clear your mind. These practices do not require any special equipment or classes; you don’t need a therapist to do them, and they are quick enough to try almost any time you need.
1) The first stress reducer is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) which can help you calm your mind and better cope with illness, pain, and stress. “Mindfulness" means reminding yourself to focus only on things happening in the present moment. Healthwise advises going outside and taking a few deep breaths. How does the air feel? Warm or cold? Try to accept that feeling and not resist it. What else do you notice around you? Or, take a slow walk by yourself. Count your steps while you breathe in and out.
It sounds simple, and it is. However, like any habit, it will take a couple of months to really make it stick. For more tips on mindfulness, search “MBSR” on the Healthwise search bar.
2) A second way to “train your brain” into a calmer state is to use guided imagery, a practice of using directed thoughts and suggestions to guide your imagination toward a relaxed, focused state. Athletes use guided imagery to imagine a race or a game before they are in it, and the same steps can be used to prepare for a big meeting or public speaking. Other methods involve imagining watching wax soften and melt or a tight piece of rope unraveling. Healthwise has videos and lists to help you through this process. Check out more tips by searching "guided imagery" at Healthwise.
3) For a way to connect your mind and body for clear thinking and better sleep, try progressive muscle relaxation.
Healthwise notes, “The body responds to stress with muscle tension, which can cause pain or discomfort. In turn, tense muscles relay to the body that it's stressed, which keeps the stress–muscle-tension cycle going.” Progressive muscle relaxation helps break this cycle, creating body-mind awareness and calm. Healthwise has recordings to guide you through all the muscle groups, or you can learn the order of muscle groups and work through them from memory. To get started, choose a place where you can lie down on your back and stretch out comfortably. You can begin working through the muscle groups by clenching your hands and releasing them. Next, according to Healthwise, you tense each muscle group (hard but not to the point of cramping) for 4-10 seconds, exhaling and relaxing each muscle group quickly.
For more pointers, Healthwise has more articles, videos, and lists (search progressive muscle relaxation) to help you through this process. And if these three de-stressors aren’t your cup of tea, use the Healthwise search bar to do more exploring.